Handmade Christmas

HandmadeCan I just say that I am so over Christmas.  Not the holiday itself, but I’m over the tons of money spent and agonizing over gifts and superfluous presents that are really simply filler because of the ridiculous pressure of I- have-to-because-they-got-me-something.

Last year was by far the worst Christmas for me in this department.  I am quite happy with what Rick and I and Santa got for H, but aside from that…. it kinda stunk.  H got so many presents that I could not remember who gave him what, mainly from Rick’s family.

We actually went into debt to buy gifts, and Rick and I did not give each other anything.   Thankfully, my family runs much more low-key. They are older and tend to value the time together -and the food- more than the presents.  But it just isn’t enough.  We will never go into debt for Christmas again.  And we’ll never skip giving our spouse a gift again either.

This year we are proposing drawing names to Rick’s side of the family, for the extended relatives (as it stands, we buy gifts for all the aunts and great aunts, uncles and cousins, grandparents and great grandparents, and it’s really too much).  But whether or not the idea gets vetoed, we will be giving hand-made gifts this year.

This summer we made a few things here and there, but now that we’re deep into October, it’s time to get serious.  I went to the fabric store twice this week to get pieces I needed for gifts.  We’re not being strict about hand-made Christmas… we can give store-bought items too, but it’s a goal.  We are going to try to make, sew, cook, bake or otherwise hand make the majority of the presents we give this year.

I’m quite excited about it.  It’s inspiring some of that long-lost creativity I used to have, and I’m actually excited about the gifts we’re giving this year (as opposed to last year when I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge).  I’ll try to keep you updated on the gift making progress as much as I can (some of my readers are receiving the gifts though, so I might have to be vague).  But expect a full report at the end of the year after the gifts have been received.  🙂

Here’s a blog I ran across (actually my friend Annie linked up), and it was quite inspiring too.  What about you?  Do you make anything for Christmas gifts?

Categories: Simple Living, Thrift | 7 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Eating-Out for Less

Ever heard of  This is a great little site that has reviews, menus, websites and makes reservations for all kinds of different local restaurants in every city.  But the best part of the site is this:  you can buy a $25 or $50 gift certificate for only $10-25 bucks!  That’s right… Pay ten bucks, get a $25 gift certificate to eat out.  This is a great way to try new local places, and save some dough doing it. 

Why not buy a gift certificate or two on pay day to save for later on in the month for a date night with the hubby or as a gift for a friend.  🙂  Yum!  I love ways to get treats (like eating out) for less!

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Frugal Friday: Used Books

Oops – didn’t get his posted intime for Thrifty Thursday, so Frugal Friday it is! 

One big time hobby of mine is reading.  I love to read, and of course the cheapest way to do that is with the library.  But I also love to give, loan, pass-on and collect books.  So for me the best think is buying used books. 

There are a lot of ways to get used books.  Englewood has a few used book stores, and there is also always the web. has almost any imaginable book, and often times it can be found in “like new” condition for a fraction of the cover price. has this feature too. 

I usually try to catch the library’s used book sale as well, but my favorite place to get used books is Goodwill (and ARC, DAV, etc.).  Though you may have to do some searching, at Goodwill, the paperbacks are always $.99 and hardcovers are $1.99, unless you go on a day where their colored tag is 50% off. 

Off the top of my head, I can think of more than twenty books that I’ve paid less than $2.00 for.  Some have been quick paperback reads that I have passed on to others, some have been parenting books, hiking guides, or books I’ve needed to complete my childbirth education certification.  I’ve gotten a few novels for Rick and even books as a gift. 

I belong to a book exchange club where every month you pass on a book you’ve enjoyed to another club member.  It great because I get to read a new book each month that I know a friend has enjoyed.  And because I have a great stash of books, I don’t mind the minor investment of passing on a book I bought at the Goodwill (plus I get to keep in touch with friends -some in other states even- in a different and creative way). 

Used books are such a great way to save money and build your reading library.  Books have so much life in them!

Categories: Recommended Reading, Thrift | 4 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Sewing it Yourself

P9140011So sorry that my TT’s have been so random lately.  Most of my computer time goes to checking email and then, I usually get a few words written  here and there, but no real chunks of time to get whole posts completed!   Such is the life with a twelve week old and a nearly three year old!

This weeks tip: Sewing it Yourself!  I’ve made quite a few things myself, with my handy-dandy sewing machine (next week’s tip – Bumming Sewing Machines off Your Mother 😉 ).  I’ve made costumes and a nursing cover and bags to store H’s toys.  But my favorite thing of late is my mei tai!

Anisa Mei TaiA mei tai is a baby carrier, inspired by Asian design.  My friend had recently bought one called a Freehand.  After going to a baby wearing class with her (to figure out how to nurse in my Moby), I saw the mei tai demonstrated, and loved the design…  Just not the price tag; $80!!  So I did what I always do, I searched craigslist for a used one.  After a couple weeks of no luck, I googled some sewing instructions (see them here & here), and I made one myself!

Rick Mei TaiMine is made from 10.10 oz unbleached cotton canvas with a cotton panel of cool bird fabric that I didn’t get the name/designer of (as always, click the pictures for the best view).  It took me about three hours to complete it, not counting washing and stopping to feed E and eat dinner myself.  Originally, I was going to pad the straps, but after seeing and feeling the width I decided it wasn’t necessary.

I am so pleased with how it turned out!  I wore it to the farm last week and it was fabulous and much cooler than the Moby, since there was so much less fabric.  I also left one side with out the birds so that it could be reversed for Rick to wear (though the birds aren’t overly girly anyway).  I still love the Moby too, but this is a great alternative, and is frankly a bit more user friendly.

In total, I spent $20 and three hours.  It would have been a bit less if I hadn’t bought the padding too.  What a savings!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | 2 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Changing the Light Bulbs

Well I’ve actually managed to get a Thrifty Thursday tip posted…. it’s been a while!  This week’s is a simple one, so I’ll keep it short.  Switching your light bulbs from a traditional bulb to a CFL (compact florescent light) bulb.  These bulbs are a bit more expensive than a traditional bulb, but they last ten times as long.  And they use far less energy – there are reports of them saving $60 per year per bulb! 

Now the light given from these bulbs isn’t exactly mood lighting, but it’s really not bad.  We’ve switched all the bulbs in our kitchen, laundry area, basement, garage and porches.  My chandeliers won’t take them, but the two lights on our nightstands have them as well.  It’s great for work areas as well since the light is quite bright. 

They’ve been in our porch lights for nearly two years now and we still haven’t had to replace them… worth the extra price tag right there (since we leave the porch lights on all night for security). 

The only catch with a CFL – you have to be careful when disposing them.  They can’t go in the garbage because they contain mercury.  So make sure, when the time comes, to take the to a proper recycling center.

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Thrifty Thursday: DIY Car Maintenance

Back in January, Tracy posted a tip about Changing Your Own Oil.  I was a bit bummed because she stole my thunder!  See – I am a ridiculous planner.  When I first joined in on the Thrifty Thursday tips, I wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to write about.  Then I organized the list into categories, and then put the categories in a particular order (like garden stuff and spring cleaning tips in the spring time).  So my DIY category got pushed back to May/June, and Tracy beat me to the punch on the oil changes.  She did a great post, so I won’t reiterate how to change your own oil here.  But I will add that if you are using conventional oil instead of synthetic, your costs are quite a bit less than what she had posted.  Also, depending on the area of the country you live in. 

BUT  I do have a couple other car maintenance tips up my sleeves (after all, my dad was a master technician for Nissan, and I grew up helping him in the garage).  The tips below are very basic and easy, and don’t require a jack to lift your car. 

First – Change your own Air Filter.  It’s amazing how dirty these things get, and how simple they are to change… especially considering what most shops want to charge you for doing it. 

Air filters run anywhere from $12-20 depending on your car.  Go to the auto parts store and look up which kind of filter to buy for your make, model and year of your car.  If you’ve never looked in one of those auto parts books they have there, you can ask the person at the counter for help, and they’ll show you how to use it (it’s worth it to ask, since this is also how you figure out what kind of oil filter and all kinds of other parts you may need one day if you do your own car maintenance).  Anyway, back to the air filter:

-Clean air filter in hand, open up the hood of your car. 
-Locate the air filter (it usually is near the top of your engine and is either rectangular or circular with a wing nut or latches hold the cover closed).
-Open the cover and remove the old air filter.
-Insert the new filter and close the cover. 
-Congrats!  You’re done!

Next – Check your Fluids.  This includes brake fluid, washer fluid, oil, coolant, transmission fluid (if you have an automatic). 

Most of these should be checked on a hot engine.  So drive to the auto parts store, shut off your car, and check it in their lot (or next time you fill up that other  fluid, gasoline, check it then so you know if you even need to make the trip). 

Once you look at the levels of fluid in each reservoir and determine what you need, go to the store, get it, and fill it up!   If you are low on oil, be sure that you are watchful for a leak.  Your car should not be burning up or leaking oil.  Sometimes a leak is easy to fix (maybe the filter was on too tight or not tight enough from your last oil change), but other things can cause it too. 

I might post a few more car tips next week, depending.  I wanted to include pictures with all of this, but Rick keeps taking the 4Runner to work, so I can’t get the pictures!  BUT if I get a chance, I’ll update this post with some ASAP.  🙂

Other things I’ve done myself include changing a serpentine belt, changing front brake pads (this was hard only because I lacked enough upper body strength to pull the pads apart by myself), changing the jets in a carburetor, and helping a friend with her alternator.  They all require more explanation, and more confidence than I have in my abilities to share a how-to.  🙂  But there are lots of good books and tutorials out there!  Rick even found a tutorial online to swap out our broken antenna on the 4Runner.  If I can do it, so can you!

Check out Genny, Tracy & Katie Jean‘s blogs for more tips this week.

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: | Leave a comment

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Garden Gate

Since I’m still on the DIY kick, I thought I’d share about one of our most complimented DIY projects, our garden gate.  Our veggie garden is technically in our front yard.  Rick wanted to put up a fence so that people couldn’t just come steal our veggies, so of course, I insisted it be cute.  🙂

I looked all over the web for designs I liked and came up with this one, shown on the left, from this site: The plan cost $3.95 to download.

gardenWe bought it, and the supplies we needed.  Rick made a few modifications to the plan to accommodate the tools he has in the garage.  This is how it turned out (note that this pic is from August 2007, and I was too lazy to go take a fresh picture).  As you can see it’s a bit different than the plan, but I love how it turned out, and it looks really great from the curb.   I think Rick built it that summer, or maybe the summer of 2006?

It’s made from cedar, and because we built it so long ago, I can’t remember the cost at all.  But I do know that it was WAY less expensive then anything we could have bought pre-fab at the store.  And it was built to last.  Here’s a picture of the gate from May last year.

It still looks great.  This year, I plan to add another coat of stain, just for added protection, and one of the balls on the posts is cracked and may need to be replaced.  But over all it was a great project, and simple to do yourself.

If you’re landscaping or doing any kind of home improvement, don’t be afraid to go searching on the web for instructions on how to do it yourself.  Sometimes the payoff is great!

Check out what Genny & Katie Jean are posting about this week.

To see more of my Do-It-Yourself projects click the DIY category on the right.

Categories: DIY, Garden, Thrift | Leave a comment

Thrifty Thursday: Habitat for Humanity Outlet

Well, since I’ve been on the project kick so bad, I wanted to share this week about a great DIY store that Genny once told me about… the Habitat for Humanity Home Improvement Outlet!  (this links to the Denver-Metro outlet stores). 

This place is great because, not only can you find awesome deals (a brand new bathtub for $85?!?!), on all kinds of building and home improvement supplies, but 100% of the proceeds go back into Habitat’s home-building program.

Here’s a link to Habitat’s website that lists other “Re-Stores” in the U.S. incase you don’t live in Colorado…

Check in with Katie Jean to see what tips she has this week!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | 1 Comment

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